Band district muted; questions swirl

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Jasper marching band’s first trumpeter Austin Armstrong, a senior, stood at attention during the halftime show of Friday night’s football game against Evansville Memorial at Jerry Brewer Alumni Stadium in Jasper. The Indiana State School Music Association has changed the way it runs the annual marching band competitions and has eliminated the district competitions. In the past, the Marching Wildcats hosted a district contest each October, which brought in at least $15,000 annually to pay for uniforms and other items. They still will host a scholastic competition Oct. 12, but it is uncertain how many bands will attend.

Herald Staff Writer

JASPER — Beginning this year, high school students from across southern Indiana will no longer gather in Jasper in October to compete in the district marching band contest for a spot in the regional contest.

The Indiana State School Music Association has amended its competition rules, which could mean a fundraising shortfall for the Jasper High School Marching Wildcats who have relied on the ticket and concession stand sales from the competition to help pay for props, uniforms and other needs each year.

“We’d make anywhere between $15,000 and in some really good years it might head more towards $20,000,” JHS Band Director James Goodhue said. “It was just a really big fundraiser for us. We’d budget based on what we’d gotten (at the district contest) the year before. Now we just have no clue. We budgeted a lot less this year.”

Jasper will still be home to an early ISSMA competition, as Jerry Brewer Alumni Stadium will be the site of a preliminary show Oct. 12 that is a mandatory contest step for some bands.

This band season, bands have the option of competing in the open class, which remains the same as the regular competition in previous years, or the new scholastic class, which is for only Class A and B band programs with fewer than 100 members and Class C and D programs with fewer than 50 members. Bands that are eligible for the scholastic class may chose to compete in the open level instead.

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Jasper senior Nick Montee played the tuba during Friday night’s football game against Evansville Memorial in Jasper.

Qualifying bands that choose to compete in the scholastic level must compete at the Jasper preliminaries. Open level bands will have the option of traveling to Jasper to perform in an invitational show Oct. 12 but will not receive ratings from judges.

Goodhue said the new contest may prove to be significantly smaller than the usual district event, but there is no way to know how many participants it will attract until all bands have signed up for their chosen classes in mid-September. Last year, 30 bands participated in the district contest at Jasper.

“For us, it’s a really bad thing, because we may end up losing a lot of money or put a lot of work into doing something that has hardly anybody there,” he said. “The thing that’s a little different is there are only (three) sites for the scholastic prelims. It’s far fewer sites than you would have for districts, so there could be bands coming to Jasper from a lot further away. Probably only the local bands would do that invitational part, but we could end up having more bands here theoretically than we did for district. I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

Forest Park Band Director Chad Gayso said that the Marching Rangers will perform at the invitational in Jasper as an opportunity to show their local fans the new show. He said the loss of district contests was imminent because almost every band advanced to the next round each year, making the contest less important. Still, he said, some groups will miss the old way.

“I felt like district had kind of lost its meaning,” Gayso said. “It’s tough, though, because you have some groups that got a gold at district, and it was a huge deal to them. I think everybody always kind of liked that day because it was just neat to get everyone together like that.”

Goodhue said the decision to end the districts contests and split the classes came very quickly, but discussions about the changes have been brewing since the semistate contest was added in 2008 because many groups did not want to commit to a fourth competition round.

The loss of a local contest in an area with a huge band fan base will be felt.

“There are so many little bands with huge followings, so ours was really old school and really cool. The atmosphere in our district was completely different than most places in the state,” Goodhue said. “We’re kind of hoping that’s what’s going to make directors feel like they should do the invitational part, to give a chance for their parents to come see the show and see other people’s shows.”

The scholastic class will give smaller orpoorly funded bands the opportunity to be successful at later stages of competition. Northeast Dubois High School Band Director David Fox said he plans to enter his students in this class. The scholastic bands will move on from the preliminary rounds to a final competition at Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis on Oct. 26.

Goodhue agreed that some good will come from the change.

“From ISSMA’s standpoint, they’re trying to save the activity a little bit in that so many groups are having trouble with funding and scheduling and getting kids to start and stay in. They thought maybe if they did this that some groups that might just quit doing marching band altogether might have something that they could do that would be still competitive,” he said.

“I think there is a good reason, but some of it’s financial and some of it’s political.”

Contact Claire Moorman at

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